The DLA opened its 137th year with ‘Angelic Streets’ on Monday 2nd September 7.30pm. It was the encouraging story of one man’s crusade to recover late-night town and city centres from the scourge of binge drinking. Paul Blakey MBE explained how his Street Angels initiative to improve behaviour and protect the vulnerable has spread across the UK.

The 2019-20 season of lectures will include travel, art, ancient Egypt and much more.

  • Lectures take place from September to April, usually second Monday of each month
  • 7.30pm at Carmel RC College, The Headlands, Darlington DL3 8RP
  • Membership is £25; visitor entrance is £5
  • Member and visitor details on, call 01325 363350 or email


2nd December: Nostalgic Views of the North is John Moreels’s title for the selection of historic pictures, from a hoard of 150,000 he found in a Newcastle photographic firm’s attic.

Mr Moreels will tell of his discovery of a cache of historical images and how they are being preserved for posterity.

The 500-box hoard of 150,000 lantern slides, glass plates and negatives assembled by the photographers Philipson became the Ward Philipson Collection. Its importance is such that a National Lottery grant was made to enable John, his wife Sheila and a small band of volunteers to set up a website showcase of the images. Most of the boxes still have not been explored. The team scan some 100 pictures a month into the site which now hosts some 15,500 of them,

13th January 2020: ‘Picasso and Matisse – the Best of Friendly Rivals’ (pictured) by Ray Warburton
What sport these paint-splashed lads would have had with a news story long after their deaths. “Joshing” is one description of their relationship. So the repartee would have sparkled if they could have known that thieves who lifted a £21m Picasso from a billionaire’s yacht didn’t bother with an also-pricey Matisse lying beside it.

Mr Warburton OBE has a considerable reputation as an art historian. His day job is to explain to visitors the fine collections at Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Pablo and Henri both produced prolific art in mediums of all kinds and in constantly evolving styles during their long lives. Few have more expertise on their work than our speaker and he has become fascinated by their amicable creative rivalry.

The lecture explains how their rivalry manifested itself in their lives and art-making. Picasso comes out on top, we judge, in the quality of the many of epigrams he coined. “Everything you can imagine is real,” for instance. The Frenchman would have been hard put to cap that as a quip in defence of the challenging imaginings that so often sprang from the palettes of both men.

10th February 2020: The Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea is a brief springtime extravaganza, a week-long Cup Final where Britain’s horticultural elite battle for trophies and perhaps shake hands with the Queen.

The largest of the 26 or so create-a-Chelsea-garden competitors spend up to £1m each; the cost of the whole shebang with sponsorship is many millions. And tickets can be over £100, even before touts get involved. Such a vulgar conversation, my dear, but fascinating.

Mr Stewart is that rare breed, a chartered horticulturalist, and for more than 20 years was head of department at a leading land college. At 13 he had an allotment supplying the local shop. After formal training, his early jobs included growing lettuce and pumpkins for M&S.
Interior landscapes and garden design have been specialities in 1,700 talks given over 25 years so he is well placed to explain the planning and mechanics of creating those special Chelsea gardens. How do they get all those apparently mature trees and full-flower plants to appear so permanent? Just what are the judges looking for?

9th March 2020: ‘Pharaohs, Potions and Pills’ by Jacqueline Campbell
Well, maybe not pills as we know them. But the Ancient Egyptians were certainly into pharmacy. Their capacity to treat all manner of ailments came as a surprise to our speaker and she became intrigued as she researched the gamut of herbs, plants and natural oils they used to postpone death on Nile.

Ancient Egyptians supplied the planet’s first “doctors” skilled in particular fields of medicine. The internet caption to our picture above, for instance, says the procedure shown is anaesthesia. There was also fairly sophisticated preventative medicine giving hygiene and diet. Researchers have learned much from the dissection of mummies.

Dr Campbell’s doctorate is not medical. Her two science degrees and PhD informed much of what we learned from her lecture in 2018 about the vast seed and plant collections assembled by Kew Gardens scientists; tonight’s subject is not unrelated.

Cancelled: 30th March 2020: ‘Beguiling Bridges’ by Keith Holmes
AGM at 6.45pm before lecture
Mr Holmes emphasises that tonight’s presentation is not about the engineering and load/stress/shear. It’s about the grace, the aesthetics, the magnificence, of the great bridges. And about the charm, sometimes the quirkiness, of small bridges in the countryside.

Bridges are nothing less than cultural icons. They are songs over troubled waters, they are padlocked romance in Paris, they sigh, Cold War spies are swapped on them, 19th-century trains plunge from them, Billy Goat Gruff was trolled on one, they define boat races and lecture-goers know that in Durham City diving firemen find archaeological treasure beneath them.

Keith, as with his evocative tours of Norfolk and Devon, is a storyteller as well as photographer. So his bridges will be delivered with a tale as well as in sharp focus. One of his favourites is in Thomas Hardy country, a crossing of the modest River Frome in Dorset. There will also be vertigo, with his angle on the spectacular Millau autoroute viaduct soaring above the Tarn; and Roman history with his shots of the Pont du Gard also in southern France.